Paul Christensen

Led by Christensen, Sounders Academy U-18s primed for national quarterfinals

Sounders FC U-18s vs. Montreal Impact U-18s

USSDA National Quarterfinals
Monday, July 7; 7 pm PT; Starfire Stadium

Monday is a big day for the Sounders FC Youth Development Academy, as the U-18 team will play in the national quarterfinals at its home Starfire Stadium.

A team ripe with talent ready to embark on their college careers, the Sounders FC U-18s have their sights set on earning the club’s first national championship at the youth level. Head Coach Dick McCormick has faith in the players on his squad, which boasts a balanced assembly of talent from the goalkeeper through to the forwards that has earned a 20-4-6 record in USSDA play.

That starts with University of Portland-bound goalkeeper Paul Christensen, who spent time with the U.S. U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida, before coming home to Sounders FC last year. In his time with the U.S. U-17s, he played against the likes of Brazil and Spain in major youth tournaments and that type of experience makes him a leader of the team.

“Paul’s got a tremendous amount of experience and leadership,” McCormick said. “He’s a great communicator. A great shot-stopper. He gives a lot of confidence to the players in front of him.”

In front of Christensen, Seattle had two players suffer late injuries that would have left many U-18 teams around the country scrambling. Instead, when Cody Crook and Justin Critchlow went down, two more talented players stepped in for them and the defense has been sturdy, allowing just one goal three matches thus far in the national tournament.

Jacob Hauser-Ramsey has returned in the middle of defense, a position he only took up last season, but has excelled in with the U-18s.
Without the right back Critchlow, Isidro Prado-Huerta has moved from left back to right back with Fischer Gallinger manning the left back role. Prado-Huerta is a versatile attacker that spent most of his youth playing in more offensive roles, so he brings a strong dynamic to the right back position.

“He’s left-footed, but he’s got a very good right foot too. He’s a very good attacking outside defender for us,” McCormick said. “He can strike the ball like a pro with both feet – shooting, crossing, long passes. Isidro does a lot of things really well.”

The midfield is where the team’s balance is personified.

With Ryan DeGroot playing as a defensive midfielder and Duncan McCormick acting as the central playmaker while also holding his own with his defensive responsibilities, Henry Wingo and Victor Rojas are freed up to use their speed on the wings to create havoc for defenses.

“It’s a very balanced, good soccer-playing group. They can score goals and create goals, but they defend pretty well too,” Dick McCormick said. “We allow Henry and Victor to be a bit more attacking on the outside. Most of the time we’re playing against teams that play three in the middle of midfield, so we’re outnumbered a lot there, but we’ve dealt with it well.”

As strong as the rest of the team is, the greatest strength may come from its three forwards that split time in the two starting spots.

David Olsen led the team with 17 goals, including a hat trick in the first game of the national tournament. Adeseyi Adekoya and Satoshi Chaffin aren’t far behind with 15 and 13 goals, respectively, though they do it in a much different way, utilizing their speed running off of the target forward Olsen.

“There might be better forwards in the country, but I don’t think any team in the country has three forwards that are as good as ours,” McCormick said, touting the flexibility that having a versatile trio can give him on any given match. “We’ve got tremendous pace in two of our guys and David Olsen is our leading goal-scorer. He’s more of our link-up guy and has really done well for us.”

Admission at Starfire is free for Monday’s match, which is scheduled to kickoff at 7 pm PT. The winners advance to the semifinals in Carson, Calif.